Chris Bassitt says Blue Jays understand reality of early-season struggles

Blue Jays Central analyst Caleb Joseph joins Jays Talk+ to talk about the team's demoralizing loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday and how much of a pendulum it could become for the team's momentum and morale moving forward.

As the Toronto Blue Jays‘ struggles persist into late May, the reality of what will happen if they don’t turn things around isn’t lost on the players.

The Blue Jays entered play Monday six games below .500 with a 23-29 record and in last place in the AL East. FanGraphs’ playoff odds give Toronto a 14.7 per cent chance of reaching the post-season after dropping three of four against the Detroit Tigers.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt recently appeared on The Chris Rose Rotation podcast, where he was asked about how much of the outside noise creeps into the clubhouse.

“We understand the situation,” Bassitt said in the interview that took place last week. “The crazy part is, I feel like we have played terrible this year and we’re like (five) games out of a wild-card spot.”

“Our schedule this year is an absolute gauntlet, obviously that’s because of our division,” he added. “A lot of guys are to that point in their career where it’s make or break and the window is barely cracked open. It is one or two more turns until it’s shut.”

Toronto is approaching a crossroads where it will have to make some difficult decisions on its future. Much of the Blue Jays’ current core, including Bassitt, are eligible for free agency in the next two seasons, creating an urgency to win now that hasn’t carried over into the on-field results.

“That’s a big part as to why there was so much pressure, so to speak, to start the year,” Bassitt said. “(We understood that) we don’t have a year left to be really, really good. We have three months. Because if the first three months don’t go well, this team’s going to get blown up — that’s just the reality of the sport.”

The Blue Jays have not been able to string together a consistent level of play this season. The offence has mostly struggled to score runs and the pitching staff has taken a step back from the elite level it performed at in 2023.

“There’s so many factors to this,” Bassitt said about the team failing to reach expectations. “The truth of it is, so many of them are just going to be excuses, in my opinion… We can look at schedule, we can look at some injuries, we can look at our back-end bullpen guys being injured to start the year, you can throw up so many things.

“But you can’t just say that because everyone goes through the same crap.”

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According to ESPN’s Relative Power Index, the Blue Jays have had the fifth-toughest schedule in baseball so far this season. However, due to playing in the AL East, they still have one of the hardest schedules remaining.

Trying to diagnose what has gone into Toronto’s underperformance this season is no easy task, but Bassitt believes the internal pressure individual players were putting on themselves has played a role in the slow start.

“I just think the reality is that too many guys showed up this year and they put way too much pressure on themselves to be the very, very best they can be,” Bassitt said. “They basically came into the season and said, ‘listen, the only way for us to be great this year is for me to be the best I possibly can be.'”

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After reaching the post-season and failing to record a playoff win for the second straight year, the front office bet big on internal improvements in the off-season. The Blue Jays reinforced their offence and defensive versatility by signing Justin Turner and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but chose to keep the main pieces of the team together.

While they haven’t seen it necessarily reflected in the win column, Bassitt feels the team has played more freely over the past few weeks and still sees a way for the Blue Jays to keep improving their approach on a day-to-day basis.

“I look at a guy like Bo Bichette, I look at Vladdy, I look at (Kevin) Gausman, me, I look at certain guys that are really struggling throughout the year, and I’m like, ‘the only way to be great, is to keep on adding up good days in a row,'” Bassitt said.

“I think we fell into a trap where we were trying to add up great days in a row.”

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